With the lowest standard of living in the Western Hemisphere, 80 per cent of Haiti’s 8 million people languish in poverty. Two-thirds of the population are unemployed. Haitians suffer from chronic malnutrition, poor health and untreated medical conditions. Some 120,000 are living with HIV/AIDS.
Haiti was rededicated to voodoo during the bicentennial celebrations of 1991. Plagued by political violence for most of its history, there is a spirit of evil permeating every level of society.
Nearly overcome by despair, many Haitians attempt escape through drugs, suicide or by sailing leaky boats to other lands. The suicide rate of the Haitian Guarani youth is reported as among the highest in the world.
Nearly 50 per cent of Haitian children do not attend elementary school. The resulting illiteracy limits the number of qualified indigenous church leaders and inhibits evangelical Haitian Christians from having a positive impact on the structure of society.
Rough, mountainous terrain and frequent rainy season floods make it extremely difficult to travel inland. Bandits further increase the danger of travel. Kidnapping, armed robbery, home invasion and assault are real threats.
In recent years, Haiti has been hard hit by a chain of natural disasters. Four deadly tropical storms in 2008 caused floods that killed hundreds of people and destroyed homes, animals and crops. Roadways were washed away, cutting off entire towns.
A massive earthquake in January 2010 killed 316,000 Haitians and left more than one million homeless. Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) was a key player in the relief efforts.
Haiti is still recovering from the tragedy. Port-au-Prince remains littered with the rubble of collapsed buildings and little rebuilding has taken place. MAF continues to provide transportation for relief workers and medical teams.
In September 2010, tropical storm Tomas hit Haiti, exacerbating the suffering of the million people still living in tent communities. Then cholera struck in late 2010. By January 2011, over 200,000 people had been infected and more than 4,000 had died.
MAF supported the work of Samaritan’s Purse, Medical Teams International and other organisations fighting the illness by delivering water purification systems, medicines, IV solution, and other life-saving supplies to hospitals and clinics.
MAF provides the only air ambulance service and transportation for dental and medical teams to the central plateau, serving more than 250,000 people. It also conducts regular flights for the island of La Gonave, where one hospital serves more than 100,000 people.
Presently, eight MAF missionary families, 15 Haitian staff members, and four aircraft serve 14 airstrips from a base of operations in Port-au-Prince.